Stapleton property owners reject neighborhood name change

In a system where renters can’t vote, the majority of voting property owners decided to keep the name of a former Denver mayor who was part of the KKK.

The defunct Stapleton Airport control tower looms over the growing suburban landscape. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The defunct Stapleton Airport control tower looms over the growing suburban landscape. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Stapleton property owners have voted to keep the neighborhood’s controversial name.

Results from a neighborhood-wide referendum showed 65.2 percent of those who voted want to retain a name some locals sought to remove. The neighborhood shares its name with former Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Only 34.8 percent of property owners who voted recommended removing the name.

According to the results, 3,590 votes were received out of roughly 10,550 eligible votes. Some people voted multiple times because they own more property. Only property owners were allowed to vote. Residents who rent were not allowed to participate, as outlined in the neighborhood organization’s 2001 governing manual.

The results were shared Monday by Rename St*pleton for All, a group that advocated for the name change.

A statement from Rename St*pleton for All on Monday said they were “disappointed and saddened” by the results but not surprised. The organizations said they had asked the MCA to delay sending ballots to allow more time to have community conversations and outreach before voting.

Stapleton on a snowy spring day, May 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Stapleton on a snowy spring day, May 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“That said, we are grateful to those in our community who did reach out to their neighbors and had patient, honest, and brave conversations about whether our community name should continue to honor a Klansman,” the statement said. “We also thank the many residents, community members, public officials, and organizations who raised their voices in support of renaming our neighborhood. And we especially thank all of our neighbors who were able to step out of their own experiences, who listened with empathy, and who voted accordingly.”

Former state treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton, a great-grandson of Benjamin Stapleton, said he’s always felt a decision to change the neighborhood’s name should be a community decision. He said it was “inexcusable” that his great-grandfather joined the KKK.

“I guess my feeling is I’m happy that the community reached a consensus that they weren’t going to solve any of the issues facing the neighborhood by simply changing a name,” Stapleton said in a phone interview.

“The larger question is when can we come together and work on problems as a community and as a state and move us forward and stop reflecting on divisiveness of a century ago that separates us as Coloradans and as Americans,” Stapleton added.

Property owners were also asked whether to enact a one-time assessment to pay for rebranding the neighborhood and pay for legal costs and 70 percent of those who voted opposed this measure. A third question asking voters to change the process for a future name change was approved by a margin of 54 to 45 percent.

Over the past few years, efforts to remove the Stapleton name from the neighborhood have sparked other efforts for schools and other public places. The neighborhood got its name from the former Stapleton International Airport located there, which in turn got its name from the former mayor.

Last week, the city’s Parks & Recreation department confirmed they would change the name of Globeville’s Stapleton Recreation Center in response to community feedback. And in May, a school named after Stapleton changed its name from DSST: Stapleton to DSST: Montview.

Stapleton United Neighbors asked residents in May 2018 whether they should change their name and a majority of voters said yes, but the percentage did not meet the threshold set by the bylaws.

The voting results were compiled by James Moore and Associates, an Aurora-based accounting firm. The vote was organized by the Master Community Association, which oversees the maintenance and operation of the neighborhood’s public spaces.

Voting began in June and ended July 31. Results were initially expected to be made public during the MCA Executive Board and Community Delegate meeting on Aug. 21.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the results of the May 2018 Stapleton United Neighbors vote. 

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